Normally following a tournament like the Battle 4 Atlantis I'd have 10,000 words to write, however given my circumstances I won't be able to muster that much simply because I don't know enough. I watched the entire Duke game on my computer, but was at Dinosaur Park (which was sweet) and then a Utah BWW that had nothing but the Utah/Colorado football game on (I'd make a joke here if Minnesota football wasn't what it is) so I had to follow along on twitter, and then for the Stanford game I was driving across the country listening to Hunger Games books on tape and tried to follow along on my phone as well as possible but cell phone internet access in the middle of Nebraska is pretty much what you'd expect. That being said, nothing has really ever stopped me from having an opinion and I'm not going to change now. You get what you get. So here:
I said the Gophers either had to beat Duke or win the next two games in order to make the tournament a success, so I'm calling it a success. Duke was clearly superior, and Plumlee may be the player I've been the most wrong about ever, but the Gophers played well and the 18 point margin should have been closer if everything those a-holes through up didn't go in. Both the Memphis and Stanford win should end up being quality victories when March roles around, particularly Memphis once they run through the ****** C-USA. Hopefully Stanford can manage to stay relevant.
Andre Hollins's's game against Memphis was a great one with 41 points, the most scored by a Gopher since 1971, but don't forget the next game he shot 1-8. He is certainly explosive, but needs to become a more complete player to be a true star. When the jumper isn't falling he needs to find other ways to contribute, and his 2 assists against Stanford when he couldn't score aren't enough. Still very fun to watch, but hopefully he can figure out this point guard thing this year.
Awesome to see Mbakwe with a double double vs. Stanford. The couple people I talked to said he looked to be truly back to his old self. I'm interested to see if he really is and if so, when Tubby let's him loose because it's time to stop playing Elliason so much. Also I hope he's back because I just took him with the first pick in the second round in our Fantasy Big 10 league.
Two good wins now on the ledger, and assuming they can beat South Dakota State at home (shouldn't be a problem) and can win at least one of the away games vs. Florida State and USC, they should be set-up pretty well to get an at-large bid in March. Of course, it would be plenty easy to blow the season in a pretty good Big 10 this year, but I prefer not to think about it.
Also I recently learned that the Gophers play Florida State in the ACC/Big Ten challenge tomorrow which seems really, really quick on the heels of the tournament. So I guess I'll do a quick preview because I love you.
The Seminoles have recovered from a mind-boggling season opening loss to South Alabama with four straight victories including quality wins over BYU and St. Joe's. They are known as being a killer defensive team under Leonard Hamilton, having ranked in the top 21 in defensive efficiency six of the past 10 years, and in the top 15 each of the last four (ranks: 12-1-1-15). They are excellent defensively again this season, currently ranking 45th. The drop off can be attributed to blocking fewer shots than in years past. The graduation of Bernard James (2.3 bpg) and Xavier Gibson (1.3 bpg) has left a hole in the middle of the defense that Florida State has yet to figure out how to fill.
What they do have in the middle of the defense is a Terrance Shannon, a 6-8, 240 lb. big ole strong dude who can handle Trevor Mbakwe's strength. What he can't handle, however, is his athleticism. Their athletic big is 6-8 Okaro White, but he's only 204 lbs, so he'll probably end up taking Rodney Williams. Unless, of course, they put Michael Snaer on him, and Snaer is the guy Gopher fans definitely need to worry about.
Snaer, at 6-5, can pretty much lock down anyone on the perimeter and is probably the best defender in the ACC. He's quick enough to stay in front of quick point guards (Dre Hollins) but is also strong enough that bigger perimeter players can't take him down to the block and post him up. Whether he takes Hollins or Williams (or someone else) you can guess they'll have a rough night.
Offensively Snaer is the biggest worry as well. He's the type of player who can just completely control a game and ups his game in big spots, such as when he hit the game winning 3 last season against Duke or his game winning 3 last season against Virginia Tech. As if he wasn't good enough last year, he's upped his game this season, increasing his scoring (from 14.6 to 16.0 per game) and upped his rebounding to cover for the two lost post players (from 3.8 to 6.4) and assists after FSU's starting point guard graduated (from 1.9 to 2.8). He's really, really good.
As a team Florida State shoots the ball well but turns it over too often (sound familiar?) Defensively they are very solid, as mentioned, and excel at creating turnovers. These are two really similar teams, where the Gophers have more talent and experience, but the Seminoles have home court advantage. The Seminoles are also the best defensive team the Gophers will face this year, and one of the few teams with the personnel to stop both Mbakwe and Hollins. I think we're looking at a low-scoring affair, and I think Snaer makes the difference.
Florida State 54, Minnesota 51.